Cestria CC takes on the Killhope Grimpeur (24 April 2016)

IMG_0319Several club members took part in Houghton CC’s annual sportive “The Killhope Grimpeur”, starting at Lanchester on Sunday 24 April 2016. Mike Wyngard, Mal Grey, Wayne Dennis and yours truly, along with first-time Grimpeurs Stuart “Chester” Cook and Michael Johnson. Philippe Galland started the course, knowing he would have to return early and David Kinleyside had started some time before. It was fresh at Lanchester (about 3C according to Mal), and Michael’s lack of leg warmers caused comment by one of the Houghton marshalls. Lesson over, we left in a group at 0845, heading into a light NW wind towards Rowley. Michael was feeling very fresh and romped ahead on this section. After Rowley we turned right towards Muggleswick where the technical descent and following rise makes the brain concentrate. Despite recent rainfall, there was not too much gravel on this section. Edmundbyers was reached without incident, and the headwind proved not too strong. We went straight through Blanchland and stopped a short distance later at Baybridge for the first checkpoint (and where the picture was taken). IMG_0317

From Baybridge begins the first serious climb of the day, through Hunstanworth and over the top before dropping to Rookhope. The group split as expected, with Mal, Michael and Philippe forging ahead. At the T-junction near Rookhope there was quite a large contingent of cyclists gathering (and presumably waiting for mates to catch up). Mike, Stuart and myself rode tempo up the gradual ascent towards the top of Allenheads and then dropped down to the second check at the Hemmel cafe. We took the opportunity for an unofficial fuel stop here, with everyone having a hot drink and cake while Mal decided to take on some serious calories with beans-on-toast. A group of ladies arrived after us and we asked them if they had seen Wayne, which they had. However, he subsequently missed the checkpoint and rode straight on towards Coalcleugh after we had waited.

The road to Coalcleugh is quite demanding in that it keeps changing gradient, along with some sharp, steep ascents. Philippe had turned back at this stage, so Mal and Michael were the frontrunners with the rest of us not far behind. We reached T-junction near the top of Killhope cross (to which we would return after the next check), and descended into Nenthead where the checkpoint was at the bike shop, rather than the usual Miners’ Arms pub. We did not stop here, and retraced our steps past the T-junction where Wayne was waiting. He decided not to bother going to the checkpoint and opted to head east at this point. Michael had been dallying at Nenthead, so we were half expecting him to pass us at speed. We waited at the summit of Killhope Cross, but decided to continue since Wayne was behind and they could ride together. With a nice tailwind we quickly dropped down to Cowshill, having cleverly missed a shower of sleet at Killhope Cross. We latched onto a couple of lads and kept with them until the next check at Daddry Shield with still no sign of Michael or Wayne. IMG_0320IMG_0321

We waited a good while and, again, cooling off quickly, decided to continue to Stanhope (via the approved back road via Brotherlee). Mal and Stuart went first, followed by Mike and myself. A handful of vintage cars passed us (this happened in previous years), and we made good progress to Stanhope where we saw signage for the Teesside Mountain Time Trial which was also taking place that morning (although the riders were long gone by c. 1pm). All that awaited us was the slogfest up Crawleyside (with the possibility of a headwind once over the cattle grid). Legs were quite tired at this stage and we crested the cattle grid with (thankfully) no stiff wind. We took the right turn and then dropped nicely past Waskerley village and past Rowley to the finish which we made at about 2.20pm. SHortly afterwards Michael appeared, having snapped his chain going up to Killhope Cross and which Wayne fixed on the spot. I’m not surprised he snapped the chain since he placed 4th on that segment in Strava (commendable since that was his first time in those parts).

Finally, many thanks to all those who made this event happen, particularly Dave Cummins of Houghton CC and all his helpers. There was plenty of food at the finish and you won’t get a cheaper sportive/reliability trial than £6. Well done to all those who took part; next year let’s try and organise a sizeable group from Cestria CC.

Peter Scott